The three-day holiday is celebrated with a huge water festival in which foreigners and locals gather to splash each other with water through water gun fights, water hosing, and all things water. It's a huge party that brings people together: strangers, friends and family. It is such a fun and laughter event! And, no doubt, the biggest holiday of the year.
Wildest holiday of my life! Adrenaline rush to the max. Soak and wet clothes. I hear stentorian music with tons of people jam-packed into streets of mirth, which constitutes the largest festival of the year in Thailand. It’s the celebration of Thai New Year also known as Songkran, a multi-day event that occurs every April, the supposedly hottest month of the year. Having no idea what to expect as a newbie, I woke up to the sounds of deafening stereo music, screams and shouts from locals, and the bustling engines of motorcycles skidding down the Sukhumvit (Thai word for main artery) as if Fast and Furious Bangkok style were being filmed in my neighborhood.
I would get to see a different side of the Thai people (who are naturally reserved) during this jubilant time of the year. It would bring people of different backgrounds together to share in the camaraderie of tradition, a cultural custom that makes Southeast Asia unique in its own right, the Indochinese Peninsula’s childlike convention. (Songkran is also celebrated in the adjacent countries of Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.)
Not sure of what I could do or wanted to do for the break where some people traveled out of town and many others flocked to town for the festivities going on in and around the megacity. Julie, my classmate, invited me and our classmate, Chavon, to venture to Kao San with her and Erik, her boyfriend. Kao San is a section of Bangkok where many foreigners, backpackers and expats alike, gather for typical foreigner revelry. I had never been there so this would be an adventure for me in every sense of the word with which I have a positive association.
The short-lived commute to Kao San via taxi came with high traffic density and a sneak water attack by Erik. He rolled down the window, while we sat in traffic, slyly positioning his extensive sword-resembling water weapon toward a family of four sitting in a tuk-tuk (outlandish petticab). He managed to strike fast and hard before they even had a chance to defend or, better yet, to go on the offense. Then zoommm…our driver sped off before our “opponents” could launch a counterattack.
Fortunately the taxicab shielded us from the outpour of water that inundated the streets, citywide and countryside; while patriotic and passionate Thailanders parading the roads in their pick-up trucks loaded with water guns, boom boxes (or elaborate built-in sound systems), and gangs of drive-by shooters heralded in the New Year with a clear shot of glee.
Interestingly enough, karma worked pretty darn fast because as we found ourselves in one of those same outdoor fancy tuk-tuks, which Erik targeted, on the way to another part of the metropolis, two people at once lunged bucketfuls of water on each side of our tuk-tuk. None of us saw it coming. All I can recall is my left ear getting flooded with terribly cold water, something I was a bit concerned about [as a festival participant] given my perforated eardrum medical condition.
Just when I had hoped for my clothes to dry in the craziest tuk-tuk ride of my life, I speculated wrong. Our driver must’ve been possessed with a speed demon because he drove down the freeway like he was trying to escape a high-speed police chase. But we made a deal with him. If he could get us to our destination in 15 minutes or less, then we wouldn’t have to pay the original price that he wanted to charge us. A haggle that we’d hope to win; and we succeeded. The refreshing wind blowing in my face, the icky sensation of swampy clothing, and a risky thrill that felt like a one-of-a-kind joyride all had my endorphins running amuck.
My inner kid totally let loose on this day infused with fun and laughter to the core. But it was just what I needed during a time when I felt isolated, homesick, and overwhelmed with academic life and work. The rapport of classmates and newfound friends intertwined with the widespread hysteria of the masses enabled me to enter another dimension of life for the moment when I can truly say that I fully lived in the present. Time wasn’t a factor, neither was homework, bills, or any of the other mundane cares of life that may weigh us down. I was free to be me, all of me. It was frabjous, fabulous and fantastic!
Now it's time to brace myself for this year's Songkran, which will jump off next Monday. GET READY!!!